Chelsea Green Publishing

Thinking in Systems

Pages:240 pages
Book Art:Black and white diagrams
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603580557
Pub. Date December 03, 2008
eBook: 9781603581486
Pub. Date December 03, 2008

Thinking in Systems

A Primer

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
December 03, 2008

$19.95

Availability: In Stock

eBook

Available Date:
December 03, 2008

$19.95

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"When I read Thinking in Systems I am reminded of the enormity of the gap between systemic thinkers and policy makers. If this book helps narrow the gap, it will be Dana's greatest contribution."--Lester Brown, founder and President, Earth Policy Institute

"Dana Meadows' exposition in this book exhibits a degree of clarity and simplicity that can only be attained by one who profoundly and honestly understands the subject at hand--in this case systems modeling. Many thanks to Diana Wright for bringing this extra legacy from Dana to us."--Herman Daly, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland at College Park

"Reading Thinking in Systems evokes the wisdom and even the voice of Dana Meadows. We are reminded of how she was not only one of the great systems thinkers, but also one of our greatest teachers. This is modestly called a primer, and indeed it is, but unlike most books with that title, this one quickly takes one from the elementary into deep systems thinking about issues as critical today as they were when Dana wrote these words. The discussion of oil use and the interaction of its extraction pattern with economic decision making should be required reading for all energy policy makers and energy company executives (as well as all informed citizens in a democracy). The fisheries case reminds us of how little any government or private actor has done to grasp the importance of takeout flows in determining stocks when the input flows are not within our control. The commentary on economics and, yes the need to consider limits, is a clear systems statement that clarifies a great deal of discussion that goes back to The Limits to Growth.

It is remarkable that Dana is able to explain with such clarity such systems concepts of stocks, flows, feedback, time delays, resilience, bounded rationality, and system boundaries and to illustrate each one with multiple informative examples. Her statement that goals that optimize subsystems will sub optimize the functioning of the total system, is truly profound. As the book moves from the 'mechanics' of systems dynamics to Dana's more philosophical perspective, we are treated to her inherent belief in human values that consider the good of all, and how much more effective considering the needs of others is likely to be in solving larger, complex problems. The universe and our society may be very complex and operate in counterintuitive, non-liner fashion, but following the insights of this book and applying them will provide for far more effective solutions to the challenges of a 7 billion person planet than current incremental, linear responses by governments, corporations and individuals."--Bill Moomaw, Professor of International Environmental Policy at the Fletcher School, Tufts University

"In Dana Meadows's brilliantly integrative worldview, everything causes everything else; cause and effect loop back on themselves. She was the clearest thinker and writer co-creating the art and science of systems dynamics, and Thinking in Systems distills her lifetime of wisdom. This clear, fun-to-read synthesis will help diverse readers everywhere to grasp and harness how our complex world really works."--Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

"Dana Meadows taught a generation of students, friends, and colleagues the art and science of thinking beyond conventional boundaries. For her systems thinking included the expected things like recognizing patterns, connections, leverage points, feedback loops and also the human qualities of judgment, foresight, and kindness. She was a teacher with insight and heart. This long anticipated book, the distillation of her life's work, is a gem."--David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College

"The publication of Thinking in Systems is a landmark. To live sustainably on our planet, we must learn to understand human-environment interactions as complex systems marked by the impact of human actions, the prominence of nonlinear change, the importance of initial conditions, and the significance of emergent properties. Dana Meadows' final contribution is the best and most accessible introduction to this way of thinking we have. This book is destined to shape our understanding of socio-ecological systems in the years to come in much the same way that Silent Spring taught us to understand the nature of ecosystems in the 1960s and 1970s."--Oran R. Young, Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara

"Thinking in Systems is required reading for anyone hoping to run a successful company, community, or country. Learning how to think in systems is now part of change-agent literacy. And this is the best book of its kind."--Hunter Lovins, founder and President of Natural Capital Solutions and coauthor of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

"Dana Meadows was one of the smartest people I ever knew, able to figure out the sensible answer to almost any problem. This book explains how she thought, and hence is of immense value to those of us who often wonder what she'd make of some new problem. A classic."--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"An inspiring sequel to Dana Meadows' lifetime of seminal contributions to systems thinking, this highly accessible book should be read by everyone concerned with the world's future and how we can make it as good as it possibly can be."--Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden

"Few matched Dana Meadows remarkable blend of eloquence and clarity in making systems thinking understandable. When Dana began her career, the field was esoteric and academic. Today it is the sine quo non for intelligent action in business and society. The publication of Meadows' previously unfinished manuscript is a gift for leaders of all sorts and at all levels."--Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and The Necessary Revolution

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review-
Just before her death, scientist, farmer and leading environmentalist Meadows (1941-2001) completed an updated, 30th anniversary edition of her influential 1972 environmental call to action, Limits to Growth, as well as a draft of this book, in which she explains the methodology-systems analysis-she used in her ground-breaking work, and how it can be implemented for large-scale and individual problem solving. With humorous and commonplace examples for difficult concepts such as a "reinforcing feedback loop," (the more one brother pushes, the more the other brother pushes back), negative feedback (as in thermostats), accounting for delayed response (like in maintaining store inventory), Meadows leads readers through the increasingly complex ways that feedback loops operate to create self-organizing systems, in nature ("from viruses to redwood trees") and human endeavor. Further, Meadows explicates methods for fixing systems that have gone haywire ("The world's leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth ...but they're pushing with all their might in the wrong direction"). An invaluable companion piece to Limits to Growth, this is also a useful standalone overview of systems-based problem solving, "a simple book about a complex world" graced by the wisdom of a profound thinker committed to "shaping a better future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donella Meadows

A woman whose pioneering work in the 1970s still makes front-page news, Donella Meadows was a scientist, author, teacher, and farmer widely considered ahead of her time. She was one of the world's foremost systems analysts and lead author of the influential Limits to Growth--the 1972 book on global trends in population, economics, and the environment that was translated into 28 languages and became an international bestseller. That book launched a worldwide debate on the earth's capacity to withstand constant human development and expansion. Twenty years later, she and co-authors Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers reported on their follow-up study in Beyond the Limits and a final revision of their research, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, was published in 2004.

Diana Wright

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR

Limits to Growth

Limits to Growth

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

In 1972, three scientists from MIT created a computer model that analyzed global resource consumption and production. Their results shocked the world and created stirring conversation about global 'overshoot,' or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Now, preeminent environmental scientists Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have teamed up again to update and expand their original findings in The Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Global Update.

Meadows, Randers, and Meadows are international environmental leaders recognized for their groundbreaking research into early signs of wear on the planet. Citing climate change as the most tangible example of our current overshoot, the scientists now provide us with an updated scenario and a plan to reduce our needs to meet the carrying capacity of the planet.

Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the original Limits to Growth. While Meadows, Randers, and Meadows do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes.

In many ways, the message contained in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a warning. Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse. But, as the authors are careful to point out, there is reason to believe that humanity can still reverse some of its damage to Earth if it takes appropriate measures to reduce inefficiency and waste.

Written in refreshingly accessible prose, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a long anticipated revival of some of the original voices in the growing chorus of sustainability. Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update is a work of stunning intelligence that will expose for humanity the hazy but critical line between human growth and human development.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Limits to Growth

Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Paperback $22.50

AUTHOR VIDEOS

John Kress - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet

John Kress - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet

Growth vs. Development

Growth vs. Development

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

The Organic Seed Grower

The Organic Seed Grower

By John Navazio

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables provide users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

In addition, readers will find extensive and critical information on topics including:

  • The reproductive biology of crop plants
  • Annual vs. biennial seed crops
  • Isolation distances needed to ensure varietal purity
  • Maintaining adequate population size for genetic integrity
  • Seed crop climates
  • Seed-borne diseases
  • Seed-cleaning basics
  • Seed storage for farmers
  • and more . . .

This book can serve as a bridge to lead skilled gardeners, who are already saving their own seed, into the idea of growing seed commercially. And for diversified vegetable farmers who are growing a seed crop for sale for the first time, it will provide details on many of the tricks of the trade that are used by professional seed growers. This manual will help the budding seed farmer to become more knowledgeable, efficient, and effective in producing a commercially viable seed crop.

With the strong demand for certified organic produce, many regional seed companies are increasingly seeking out dedicated seed growers to ensure a reliable source of organically grown seeds for their farmer and gardener customers. This trend represents a great business opportunity for small-scale commercial growers who wish to raise and sell vegetable seeds as a profitable part of their diversified small-farm operation. Written by well-known plant breeder and organic seed expert John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower is the most up-to-date and useful guide to best practices in this exciting and important field.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

Read More

The Organic Seed Grower

John Navazio

Hardcover $49.95

The New Net Zero

The New Net Zero

By Bill Maclay

The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, sustainable architect Bill Maclay charts the path for designers and builders interested in exploring green design’s new frontier net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.

 In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously–among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.

Designers and builders will find a wealth of state-of-the-art information on such considerations as air, water, and vapor barriers; embodied energy; residential and commercial net-zero standards; monitoring and commissioning; insulation options; costs; and more.

The comprehensive overview is accompanied by several case studies, which include institutional buildings, commercial projects, and residences.  Both new-building and renovation projects are covered in detail. 

The New Net Zero is geared toward professionals exploring net-zero design, but also suitable for nonprofessionals seeking ideas and strategies on net-zero options that are beautiful and renewably powered.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

The New Net Zero

Bill Maclay

Hardcover $90.00

The Systems Thinking Playbook

The Systems Thinking Playbook

By Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows

This book has become a favorite of K–12 teachers, university faculty, and corporate consultants. It provides short gaming exercises that illustrate the subtleties of systems thinking. The companion DVD shows the authors introducing and running each of the thirty games.

The thirty games are classified by these areas of learning: Systems Thinking, Mental Models, Team Learning, Shared Vision, and Personal Mastery. Each description clearly explains when, how, and why the game is useful. There are explicit instructions for debriefing each exercise as well as a list of all required materials. A summary matrix has been added for a quick glance at all thirty games. When you are in a hurry to find just the right initiative for some part of your course, the matrix will help you find it.

Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows both have many years of experience in teaching complex concepts. This book reflects their insights. Every game works well and provokes a deep variety of new insights about paradigms, system boundaries, causal-loop diagrams, reference modes, and leverage points. Each of the thirty exercises here was tested and refined many times until it became a reliable source of learning. Some of the games are adapted from classics of the outdoor education field. Others are completely new. But all of them complement readings and lectures to help participants understand intuitively the principles of systems thinking.

Available in: Mixed media product

Read More

The Systems Thinking Playbook

Linda Booth Sweeney, Dennis Meadows

Mixed media product $70.00

Dazzle Gradually

Dazzle Gradually

By Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan

At the crossroads of philosophy and science, the sometimes-dry topics of evolution and ecology come alive in this new collection of essays--many never before anthologized. Learn how technology may be a sort of second nature, how the systemic human fungus Candida albicans can lead to cravings for carrot cake and beer, how the presence of life may be why there's water on Earth, and many other fascinating facts.

The essay "Metametazoa" presents perspectives on biology in a philosophical context, demonstrating how the intellectual librarian, pornographer, and political agitator Georges Bataille was influenced by Russian mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky and how this led to his notion of the absence of meaning in the face of the sun--which later influenced Jacques Derrida, thereby establishing a causal chain of influence from the hard sciences to topics as abstract as deconstruction and post-modernism.

In "Spirochetes Awake" the bizarre connection between syphilis and genius in the life of Friedrich Nietzsche is traced. The astonishing similarities of the Acquired-Immune-Deficiency-Syndrome symptoms with those of chronic spirochete infection, it is argued, contrast sharply with the lack of evidence that "HIV is the cause of AIDS". Throughout these readings we are dazzled by the intimacy and necessity of relationships between us and our other planetmates. In our ignorance as "civilized" people we dismiss, disdain, and deny our kinship with the only productive life forms that sustain this living planet.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

Dazzle Gradually

Lynn Margulis, Dorion Sagan, Roald Hoffman

Paperback $25.00